Eye Movements and Display Change Detection During Reading

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In the boundary change paradigm (Rayner, 1975), when a reader's eyes cross an invisible boundary location, a preview word is replaced by a target word. Readers are generally unaware of such changes due to saccadic suppression. However, some readers detect changes on a few trials and a small percentage of them detect many changes. Two experiments are reported in which we combined eye movement data with signal detection analyses to investigate display change detection. On each trial, readers had to indicate if they saw a display change in addition to reading for meaning. On half the trials the display change occurred during the saccade (immediate condition); on the other half, it was slowed by 15–25 ms (delay condition) to increase the likelihood that a change would be detected. Sentences were presented in an alternating case fashion allowing us to investigate the influence of both letter identity and case. In the immediate condition, change detection was higher when letters changed than when case changed corroborating findings that word processing utilizes abstract (case independent) letter identities. However, in the delay condition (where d' was much higher than the immediate condition), detection was equal for letter and case changes. The results of both experiments indicate that sensitivity to display changes was related to how close the eyes were to the invalid preview on the fixation prior to the display change, as well as the timing of the completion of this change relative to the start of the post-change fixation.

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